We never expect it to happen to us. After all, most of us don’t know the first thing about identity theft until it does happen to us. The most important thing to remember about identity theft is that it’s important to quickly take charge of the situation. Of course, that’s easier said than done. So to be proactive, here’s how!

When someone steals your information, such as your bank account information or a credit card number, and uses it without your permission, this is called identity theft. Thieves can use your information to open utility accounts, get medical treatment, go on a shopping spree, and much more. Whether your wallet is stolen or you just suddenly notice unusual transactions on your accounts, chances are your identity has been compromised.The first thing to do if you find your identity has been stolen is to file a fraud alert with both EquiFax Canada and TransUnion Canada. When you request that a fraud alert be placed on your account, it encourages businesses to contact you before they open a new account in your name. What is more, this alert can stay on your credit report for six years. Be sure to contact and file separate fraud alerts with both bureaus. Don’t forget to request a copy of your credit report with both companies. In some cases, you may receive the report free of charge.

Next up, take time to contact both the local police as well as the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Information you provide to both parties will go a long way in helping to shut down various identity fraud schemes. After that, consider freezing or cancelling your credit cards as well as any debit cards linked to your bank account. Take these steps as shared by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police website:

  • Close every account that might have been compromised. Request that it be processed as “closed at the consumer’s request”.
  • Obtain a replacement bank or credit card with a new account number and a new Personal Identification Number (PIN).
  • Put a “stop payment” on any stolen cheques.
  • Ask to have a (new) password added to your account.

Once you’ve done this it is time to review your credit report for any signs of fraudulent activity. Keep in mind that different credit reports may contain different information, so it’s important to get copies from both major credit companies. If you notice something strange on your credit report, call the company right away and explain your situation.

Identity theft is a very real problem. While you can prevent it from happening to you, it’s also important to be prepared in case identity thieves strike. By following the above tips, you should be able to start down the right path for resolving identity theft. Contact your local police office for more tips on how to battle identity theft.